Anxiety is the feeling of fear we all experience when faced with threatening or difficult situations. It helps us to avoid dangerous situations, makes us alert and motivates us to deal with problems.
Panic is defined as a sudden unexpected surge of anxiety which makes you want to leave the worrying situation.
Phobias are fears of a situation or thing that isn’t dangerous and which most people don’t find troublesome.
When these feelings become too strong they can stop us from doing the things we want to.
Causes Of Anxiety
Genes: Some of us seem to be born more anxious than others. Research suggests these problems can be inherited through our genes. But even someone who doesn't naturally worry can, under enough pressure, become uncomfortably anxious.
Circumstances: Sometimes it's obvious what is making you anxious. When the problem disappears, so does the anxiety. However, some extreme situations are so threatening that the anxiety goes on long after the event. You can feel nervous and anxious for months or years, even if you were physically unharmed. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder.
Drugs: Recreational drugs like amphetamines, LSD or ecstasy can all make you anxious – for some people, the caffeine in coffee is enough.
Life experience: Bad experiences in the past or big life-changes such as pregnancy, changing job, becoming unemployed or moving house.
* Feeling worried all the time
* Unable to sleep
* Difficulty concentrating
* Racing heartbeat
* Muscle tension and pains
* ShakingBreathing heavily
* Feeling dizzy or faint
* Indigestion or diarrhoea
If you are anxious already, the physical symptoms can make you worry they are signs of a serious illness. This can make you even more anxious.
* Sudden and overwhelming fear and sense of loss of control
* Breathing quickly
* Increased pounding heartbeat
* With a bad panic attack, you may feel that you are going to die.
A phobia is experiencing strong feeling of anxiety in situations that frighten you. For example, if you have a phobia of dogs, you feel anxious when there are dogs around, but feel fine at other times. You tend to avoid the situations that make you anxious - but this makes the phobia worse as time goes on. Your life gets taken over by the things you have to do to avoid such situations. You realise that there is no real danger and may even feel silly about your phobia, but still can't control it.
Anxiety and panic are often accompanied by feelings of depression, losing your appetite, or seeing the future as bleak and hopeless.
Self Help - You can learn relaxation techniques through groups or professionals or teach yourself with books, CDs and DVDs. Regular practice will help you to relax when you need to most. Self-help leaflets and books based on cognitive therapy.
You may not want to talk to family members about your phobia or feelings of anxiety – but it can help. Try a friend or relative you trust and respect, and who is a good listener. They may have had the same problem themselves, or know someone else who has.
It can be easier to talk to people with similar problems in a group. They understand what you are going through and may be able to suggest ways of coping. These groups may focus on anxieties and phobias, or on other problems. These include women's groups, bereaved parents groups, survivors of abuse groups.
Psychotherapies - are talking treatments which can help you understand and control your anxieties. They can happen in groups or individually, for several weeks or months. It's generally a form of cognitive behavioural therapy.
Medication - Tranquillisers (valium-type medicines, like most sleeping tablets) are very effective, but should only be taken for a short period of time as they can be addictive. Antidepressants work well but can take two to four weeks to work. Side-effects include nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth and constipation. Beta blockers are usually used to treat high blood pressure but can be used, in low doses, to control the physical shaking of anxiety.
Books about Anxiety
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Edmund J. Bourne, 2005. This book explains cognitive-behavioural techniques in a step-by-step format.
How to Cope with Panic Attacks, Sarah Teevan and Janet Gorman, 2006. A MIND booklet that aims to explain why panic attacks happen and gives sources of help.
Understanding Anxiety, Karen Cruse, 2009. A Mind booklet on the causes of anxiety, its effects and how to reduce it, as well as how to reassure and support those who suffer.
Overcoming Anxiety, Helen Kennerley, 2009. A guide explaining how to overcome problem fears and anxieties.
The Hell of Social Phobia: One Man's 40 Year Struggle, Terry Cunningham, 2008. A story about the author's experience of how it feels to live a life dominated by social phobia and the terrible destruction it caused in his life.
Triumph Over Shyness: Conquering Shyness and Social Anxiety, Murray B Stein and John R. Walker, 2003. A self-help book with case histories, techniques, and exercises to help you manage anxiety and improve relationships.
The Mindful Path Through Shyness: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Help Free You from Social Anxiety, Fear, and Avoidance, Steven H. Flowers, 2009. A self-help guide for readers who struggle with shyness and social anxiety to help them begin to notice the patterns that cause them to feel isolated and take steps toward change.
Advice And Support
Anxiety UK offers advice and support as well as access to therapies for sufferers of all anxiety disorders and phobias.
Tel: 08444 775774
Anxiety Care is a charity that specialises in helping people to recover from anxiety disorders.
Tel: 020 8478 3400
Social Anxiety UK
Social Anxiety UK is a support network for those that suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder.